For many students, school is just a place. For Catholic school students, school is a home. Why the difference? Because Catholic schools cherish every student and nourish each child in mind, body and spirit. This holistic approach to learning and living is what many families seek and, once they’ve found it, they pass it on to their children- and their children’s children.
St. Thomas Aquinas High School is blessed to have many alumni working with its students. Whether as faculty or staff, these returned graduates share their one-of-a-kind gift with our community- they have lived the STA experience first-hand. One such blessing in our community is Guidance Counselor Jill (St. Laurent) Mahan. As a graduate of St. Mary Academy, St. Thomas Aquinas (2000), and St. Anselm College, Jill has her roots deeply embedded in Catholic education. She now shares this circular gift with her own two children who currently attend St. Mary Academy in Dover.
We caught up with Jill in honor of Catholic Schools Week to cast the spotlight on why she so cherishes Catholic education and how it has affected her life journey.
As a child, my parents brought me to visit St. Mary Academy prior to entering my first grade year. My mother says that, from that moment on, I didn’t stop talking about attending SMA for the following year. As I reflect on my educational experience as an elementary and middle school student at SMA, four words continue to enter my mind “it felt like home.” In moving on to St. Thomas Aquinas High School, that feeling continued to permeate. I felt as though I was part of an additional family- a place where I could be myself, a place that provided an exceptional academic experience in which I would be challenged and prepared, and a place in which my religious and personal values were shared and encouraged. As my senior year approached and I visited various colleges, I thought I wanted a change. I had planned on attending a big school, likely UVM, until my counselor suggested I visit St. Anselm College. From the moment I stepped foot on the campus, those four words came flooding back to me: “it felt like home.” The choice was simple. I attended St. A’s and it was one of the best experiences of my life.
The benefits of a Catholic education have been second to none. The smaller atmosphere, a family-like environment and the rigorous preparation- combined with encouraging each child to develop his/her unique gifts while establishing a strong moral compass and giving back to the community- have had an immense impact on my life- so much so that my husband and I made the decision to enroll both of our children at St. Mary Academy. Their experience has been extremely positive and they look forward to going to school each day. Around the same time that our children started attending SMA, I returned to St. Thomas Aquinas as a Guidance Counselor because really- there is no place like home.
Thank you, Jill, for sharing your many gifts with us- your expansive knowledge, your innate compassion, and your ever-ready smile. STA is extraordinarily blessed to have you as part of its family.